Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, said yesterday that Riyadh aspires for a “strong and solid Gulf union with shared defense and security systems.”
Addressing a summit of Gulf Cooperation Council here on behalf of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, he emphasized the importance of Gulf union and hoped the member countries would approve the proposal by the next GCC summit in Riyadh.
“Gulf union will have a big impact on our nations. It will bring good and prevent evil,” Prince Salman said.
“We are looking forward to a strong union that meets the hopes and aspirations of GCC citizens by completing economic union, creating economic and social environment to boost welfare, and adopting a unified and effective foreign policy to ward off the ?member states from regional and global conflicts,” he said.
“This summit is being held at a highly delicate period in the history of GCC countries,” the crown prince said, expressing hope that the conference would accelerate the group’s march forward.
“What we have achieved so far does not match our ambitions,” he added.
Speaking about Gulf Union, which was proposed by King Abdullah during the last summit in Riyadh, the crown prince said: “People of Gulf countries will benefit a lot from the union.”
Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa opened the summit at the Convention Hall of Al-Sakhir Palace, emphasizing the GCC’s capability to confront challenges. “We will exert greater efforts to strengthen security of our societies and support Arab rights,” the king said.
In an arrival statement, Prince Salman extended his good wishes to GCC leaders. “King Abdullah has expressed his confidence that the wisdom of King Hamad and other GCC leaders will ensure the success of the summit through accelerating the GCC’s march and achieving the goals set by them to meet GCC citizens’ hopes and aspirations.” Prince Salman thanked King Hamad for the warm welcome and hospitality accorded to him in Bahrain.
Prince Salman met with King Hamad and handed him a written message from King Abdullah.
Prince Salman was accompanied by Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Special Adviser Prince Muhammd bin Salman, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf, State Minister Musaed Al-Aiban and other senior officials.
The two-day summit, according to GCC sources, will focus on strengthening Gulf unity in economic, political, defense, security and cultural areas. It will also discuss regional issues including the conflict roiling Syria and the situation in Yemen, the sources said.
Four of the six heads of state are not attending the annual gathering. King Abdullah is convalescing after a back surgery, while Qatar is sending its crown prince, the UAE its vice president and Oman its deputy premier.
The GCC groups Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE. They have a combined population of around 46 million, the majority of whom are foreigners. Their overall GDP in 2011 amounted to $ 1.371 trillion, a diplomatic source said.
The summit will also discuss GCC's relations with Tehran. Iran is "interfering to provoke sedition, and this is unacceptable," said Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal after attending a meeting of GCC foreign ministers in Manama a day earlier to finalize the summit’s agenda.